"AN UNFORGETABLE MEMORY ABOARD THE USS STEVENS"
An excerpt from the book "TIN CANS MAKE MEN" by: Robert T. Hill*
The destroyer, USS Stevens (DD-479) was my home for over 2-1/2 years in the South Pacific theater during World War II. On several occasions we sailed with a Task Force that included my brother Don's ship, the fast carrier, USS Cabot (CVL-28). One of the most memorable of my war time experiences occurred while anchored off a nothing Pacific Island during the staging for an approaching engagement with the Japanese fleet. Within eyesight, but a short distance from our anchorage, lay a respected "flat top" with a very distinct "28" on her port bow. My only brother's ship! WOW!
A part of my assigned duties aboard the Stevens were to stand the wheel watch and serve as Coxswain of the Captain's gig (motor whaleboat). As such, I developed an excellent rapport with Captain Rakow and felt quite comfortable requesting permission to "test the gig, and board the USS Cabot to visit my brother, who services the gee dunk (ice cream) equipment!" The good captain, with a stern look, replied, "Permission granted, with one condition: bring back gee dunk for the officer's mess!" With a smart salute, I fired off, "Aye Aye Sir."
While not officially timed, the gig crew was assembled and the boat was lowered to the water in record time! My high regard for the USS Cabot and her outstanding crew, a regard I cherish to this day, was born as we came alongside and I called out to the Officer of the Deck, "Bos'n Hill and crew, USS Stevens, DD-479, requesting permission to come aboard to greet my brother, Donald Hill, Machinist Mate First Class Sir." For what seemed an eternity the officer carried on a conversation with his orderly. As the discussion ceased a loud and clear message came from the ship's PA system: "Hill, Machinist Mate First report to the quarter deck to receive boarding party." With that the officer responded, "Permission to come aboard Stevens crew, and welcome."
Can you believe it? Right in the middle of a war, in a combat zone, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean two brothers from South Euclid, Ohio, are about to meet face to face! What a reunion we had! The area of hospitality just happened to feature the beautiful gee dunk machine! (Destroyers do not have a gee dunk machine). Don provided all we could eat! Yes!
Following a wonderful visit, and meeting several "A" Division friends of Don's, with names like "Foxy" and "Bruck", we reluctantly headed for the gangway. Goodbyes are never easy, however, we did have an ugly war to win. As we approached the gangway and requested the Officer of the Deck permission to leave the ship he responded, "Permission granted." and abruptly turned his back to us. With that, Don quickly handed me a large package that I literally flew down the gangway with, to the awaiting gig. As we drew away from the Cabot, the officer called down, "enjoy the gee dunk, tin can sailors." With that I responded, "Believe me, the officers will. Thank you Sir."
We lost Don at age 25 from service connected injuries, Don left behind a wonderful wife, daughter and son, My admiration and respect for the USS Cabot and her fine crew remains constant to this day. It is with high regard, and a distinct privilege, that I am a member of the USS Cabot (CVL-28) Association
*Robert T. Hill served aboard the USS Stevens as a Boatswains Mate 2/C.